Before I disappeared to the Big Smoke for the foreseeable future, I took a trip to the Dick Institute, one of the longest standing museums in Ayrshire.

The building itself dates back to 1901 and was named after James Dick, a Kilmarnock-born man who provided the funding. It sadly caught fire just eight years later, destroying the collections. After renovations it re-opened to great success.

Today it is still a splendid looking building, which also houses the town of Kilmarnock’s library.

{Mosaic floor art in the foyer}

{Stained glass windows in the interior walls}

There have been many excellent temporary exhibits over the past few years, especially for children, such as a collection of original Miffy illustrations from Dick Bruna’s books. Some of these illustrations were gifted to the Dick in 2007 and remain on display on the first floor.

The new exhibit that drew me to the Museum was ‘Johnnie Walker’, the world famous whisky sold in over 120 countries, which was born in 1820 in Kilmarnock.

There was much controversy when in 2009, owners Diageo announced they would be closing the original factory, snatching the brand from its home and dissolving 900 jobs in the process. This was not due to the recession and Diageo were still making huge profits.

So I was somewhat surprised that East Ayrshire Council did not make more of an effort with the exhibition. I couldn’t even find it at first (no signage within the Museum), and it quickly became clear as to why. The exhibition was located amongst ‘the Kilmarnock Edition’ section upstairs, and was confined to just a few cabinets. Some of the items were interesting enough, but overall the exhibition fell a little flat.

{Iconic square bottle with slanted label, introduced in the 1860s}

{The Striding Man logo was created in 1908 with the accompanying slogan ‘Born in 1820 -still going strong’}

{A model of the original Johnnie Walker grocery store}

Another current exhibition, ‘A Wider View’, in the main gallery (ground floor) is a series of photographs by local photojournalist James Gilmour, taken over his forty year career. The photographs are predominantly from West of Scotland locations and feature local people in various guises.

Some of the photographs border on the macabre, such as those taken inside Strathclyde Police’s Glasgow mortuary, and the gloomy shots taken inside the now abandoned Great Eastern Hotel (a Glasgow shelter for homeless men), but this just makes them all the more appealing as a viewer.

All of the images were shot in black and white and with a wide-angled lens, giving them a cinematic feel, which works well with the subject matter.

See the Facebook page to view some of the images.

The Dick Institute is open Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 5pm. Entry is free.
‘James Gilmour: A Wider View’ runs until 24th August.
‘Johnnie Walker’ runs until 21st December.